St Croix River Road Ramblings

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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Catching Up Days

The sap stopped running on Sunday but we had gotten behind on the cooking, so Scott is finishing up the last 100 gallons by tomorrow afternoon.  Sap that sits in a few warm days gets a little milky looking as the bacteria and fermentation process goes on.  If it gets too far along, the flavor of the syrup will be bad, but with the cool temps today and tomorrow, we probably will be fine. 
Ice over half of the lake.  Scott has been watching up to 6 bald eagles come in on the ice.  They are eating a few large carp that must have died over winter.  Carp are actually the first to die if the oxygen level drops too low in the winter.  Good way to keep them in control. 

The lake was about 1/3 open this morning and 1/2 open this evening.  I think this is about as late as I can remember for the lake to open, except last year when the last ice left on April 29th (it had opened somewhat earlier and then refroze).    Over the years, we had figured it normally opened before Dad's birthday on April 18th with several recent years actually being open by the end of March. 

Apple trees are a bet on the future.  Even if I don't see them bear fruit, someone will.  Grandpa kept planting until he died, as did Dad and Mom. 
A row of trees along the River Road just north of Evergreen Avenue.  My youngest brother, Byron, planted this row probably 25 years ago or more.  When I see them, I think about him.  He died in a motorcycle accident in 2002 hitting a deer and without a helmet getting severe head injuries.  He was the most interesting of us boys, always doing something different and exciting. 
This morning I planted 2 Wolf River apple trees and 4 Macintosh. With luck and care, they will grow to be large trees.  I don't plant dwarf or semi-dwarf --prefer ones that will grow above the deer browse level.  Then I disked and disked the rough area along Evergreen Av where I plan to plant 30 Siberian crabs for flying wildlife and beauty. 

Stopped to check the fenced in sand garden along the River Road.  Brother Everett and I bought 70 acres from Grandpa in 1968.   The soil is sandy, and without plenty of rain and plenty of fertilizer, is not good for crops.   It does raise wonderful watermelons.   I had a different view this year, looking at hundreds of redpines we planted over the years, but no longer owning the land.  We sold it to nephew Colby in January, passing it on to the next generation.  The logs we didn't cut, the firewood we didn't clear, the trails grown in and the 30 year old pine plantation all passed on.  You can't hold on to things forever, but it is hard after nearly 50 years switching from owner to trespasser. 
The ground where I want to plant the rest of the apples--the old cow pasture, was rough from years of pocket gopher mounds.  Got it down smooth enough so I am almost satisfied to set out the trees.  
Small pocket gopher mound, fresh this spring.  They mess up farm fields by leaving the mounds of dirt.  In their niche in the western prairies, they allow for diversity in the prairie sod--a place for new seeds to sprout.  They are unknown much west of Luck, WI, having migrated in from the west into the original sand prairie along the east side of the St Croix.  Want to learn more about pocket gophers?  Check and earlier blog post: A Gopher Tail  

Spent the afternoon at the Luck Museum listening and watching Jay Bergstrand's very interesting talk on his work with the US Fish and Wildlife service in Alaska beginning in the late 1950s.  Jay, as a sophomore biology student in River Falls, took a summer job along the coast in southern Alaska, camping out along a salmon spawning river scaring off salmon poachers to allow the fish to go upstream to spawn.    Fascinating, well illustrated, and worthy of being turned into a book!   From fishing, flying, policing a frontier village, to living through the 1964 earthquake, Jay certainly had an interesting career in Alaska.  

I thought about my own college summers driving a string bean picker down field after field at 1.5 mph and realized my own experience was sadly lacking in adventure! 


Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Afternoon -- The Big Melt

The family gathered at brother Marv's place for Easter dinner and the afternoon egg hunt for the kids.  70 degrees made the day seem unexpectedly warm, and very nice.  

After lunch and the egg hunt, some of us took a walk up Marv's segment of Wolf Creek.   No bugs, no ticks make early spring an excellent time for walking in the woods.  

The Easter egg hunt -- Marv and Sheila hide 200+ plastic eggs with candy inside them -- 10 per kid with their name on each egg, and the kids find them.  The warm weather melted some of the chocolate inside the eggs and the uncles had to take a spoon and eat it to keep the kids from getting all messy;-)

The walkway over Wolf Creek.  A lost fishing bobber here may end up in the Gulf of Mexico

Grandpa planted the pines in 1951. His grandson, Marv and  Marv's grand daughter enjoy them 63 years later. 

 The 6th generation of Hanson's in Wisconsin are growing up!
Where old machinery goes to die

Something interesting here!

Dads and sons --Charles Hanson of Sweden's 5th and 6th generation square off 

 The Finch Family
"The Brown-headed Cowbird is a stocky blackbird with a fascinating approach to raising its young. Females forgo building nests and instead put all their energy into producing eggs, sometimes more than three dozen a summer. These they lay in the nests of other birds, abandoning their young to foster parents, usually at the expense of at least some of the host’s own chicks. Once confined to the open grasslands of middle North America, cowbirds have surged in numbers and range as humans built towns and cleared woods."

Friday, April 18, 2014

First Syrup Batch

Finally finished off the first batch of maple syrup--about 6 gallons.  The sap ran well yesterday and today and we have about 200 gallons on hand that we began cooking for the second batch after taking off the first one this evening. 

Probably one more day of sap running and then it will be too warm and possibly be the end of the season.  We have 75 taps out and in an average year, we should get 75 quarts of syrup (or about 15 gallons).  We started a little late due to the heavy snow so if we get one more day of sap, I would say we would be just under an average year for syrup. 

Although there is still a lot of snow on the ground, it is melting fast and quite muddy and slippery in the woods.  For whatever reason, we have found that sap runs great after a late spring snow. 

Silver Maple budded out.  Sugar maples are very late to bud, but when they do, the flavor changes and syrup season is over.  

Thursday, April 17, 2014

April 16th Snowstorm

Snow started yesterday morning and continued through most of the day and night.  Here we probably got about 18 inches total, although it is hard to tell as it drifted a lot.  The driveway ranged from 18-24 inches.  

Had taken the snow blower off the cub cadet for the summer.  It only took me about 30 minutes to get it back on and hardly any persuasive words.  Two bolts, two pins, and a belt that you drive into.  However, getting them lined up as they tighten into the belt is fraught with peril.  Using jacks, pry bars, and finesse, it went better than I expected!

The birds are thick around the feeders this morning.   Some photos of today including the goose on the nearby pond who honked and watched me the whole time. 

Morning hair

A goose honking this morning does not seem happy with the pond

West of the tree line was sheltered and only 8 inches of snow

In the evening the field pond had several geese. 

Put some sun flower seeds on the driveway for traction!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Lake Ice

Too cold for sap to run today, so went for a walk along the lake shore and into the woods.  I found the edge of the lake with the high water flooding the shoreland fascinatingly picturesque, and took a bunch of photos to share.   

 Water's edge is normally the cattails
 The water is clear under the ice

Tracks on the underside of the ice from ?

                   The mole has left a trail on the shoreline